[Review] With the Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevedo

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(Elizabeth Acevedo, 2019) YA-ICON

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Writing
    • If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. There is just something special about the way Elizabeth Acevedo writes. Whether it is in prose, or in verse, she [Acevedo] has a way with words that just pulls you into a story. In this case, you are completely engulfed in the rich language of food. It was a severe difference from the Poet X but the way that Emoni is magic in the kitchen, I truly believe that Avevedo is magic with words.
  • Unique thoughts
    • The high school senior figuring out what to do after graduation is classic. Everyone has read and/or written that story. But what Acevedo does differently that I really liked was present non-college options as real, viable choices. Everyone feels the need to go to college after high school, that’s just what US students do, so I really enjoyed the fact that the author explored other options and made them make sense just as much as going to college. She showed the pressure students feel to apply and go to college, even when it might not be the right route for them.

What I Disliked

  • One-time
    • I definitely enjoyed this story and its characters, but it felt very much like a one time read for me. I don’t see the need to revisit is at any point. I LOVE the cover and I really did enjoy the characters and the story, but it just isn’t one that I would need to revisit at any point.

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Final Thoughts

This was a hard review to write for me! I liked the book a lot, but I really didn’t have much to say about it other than I liked it a whole lot. I know that happens sometimes where especially when a book is good, it is hard to find the words to describe why. Anyway, Acevedo does a great job with her sophomore novel, which is actually much much different than her debut.

Emoni is a high school senior, and has a 2 year old daughter. She was raised by her grandmother in Philadelphia, and is very in tune with food. Her grandmother has even told her that she is magic in the kitchen. She possesses a gift but still struggles to figure out what her future will hold. This book explores some of the more complicated factors that affect life after high school. Should she go to college? Should she go right into the work force? What is best for her daughter? What is best for her? There are a lot of things to unpack and explore throughout the story, and while it is a main plot point, the book also focuses a lot on the development of its characters. You really get a good grip on many of them, and get to see them grow and open up to each other. There was one part I didn’t like about the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll keep it to myself. The only thing I’ll say is that I wish they had done it a little different. Other than that one little thing, this was a really solid story. I will definitely be looking for more of her books in the future.

5 thoughts on “[Review] With the Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevedo

  1. I really liked this one! Acevedo has beautiful prose and she created a realistic teen voice. I also liked the discussion of college, though I feel like a more realistic take would have considered the tens of thousands of debt the average American student takes on–and whether it’s worth it, if she’ll ever make it back.

    Liked by 1 person

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